What Could Solar-Powered Crypto Mining Do?
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Was there ever a more futurist idea than renewable energy? It opens the door to so many other possibilities. For example, we live in an age where solar power is so cheap that $20 gets you a pocket solar power bank:
These typically come with a couple of USB charging ports, you plug your phone right in (or any device). They're built rugged to survive the elements, too. Congratulations, you are now a walking power source! Since virtually anything electronic now comes with a USB charge adapter, the possibilities are endless. Not only free power, but mobile, compact, free power.
Let's indulge some whimsical speculation. We have scenarios here that could fit into many a science fiction story.
You have probably heard this speech several times by now and are just as befuddled. Feel free to skip ours:
Cryptocurrency is based on a technology called "blockchain," which, as simply as we can say, is just about harnessing the power of cryptography pitted against raw computing power. You could say that the process is simply handing a difficult math problem to the computer when you know roughly that it will take only so much time for the computer to solve it. Every time it solves another equation, tada, we've added a new "block" to the "blockchain," which is simply a written list of all past problems and their solutions. You now have a secure, public resource of data transmission that is impossible to disrupt. The process of solving these problems is called "mining."
The bottom line with crypo-based technology is that it requires a ton of computing resources. You may think your gaming rig that runs Call of Duty at a million FPS in HD with Surround Sound is powerful, but that's peanuts compared to crypto-mining. You basically need a server farm.
It is important to understand: There is much more to crypto-mining techniques and blockchain than just the electronic currencies like Bitcoin or the crazy circus around NFTs. Blockchain tech is also used for things like telemetric devices in industrial application. It's great for gathering and transmitting huge volumes of data without worrying about it being hacked, forged, leaked, or even errors. Blockchains have applications in automotive, banking, insurance, military, medical, and retail industries, to name a few. Blockchain is also very useful to artificial intelligence and distributed automated systems.
So we're not going to all this trouble just to generate those spammy NFT monkeys cartoons you see going around on social media.
Solar Power Could Solve Cryptos' Power Problem
The biggest issue we have with crypto-mining and blockchain tech in general is that it not only requires massive computing resources, but cooling systems so the machines don't melt from all the heat they generate. That adds up to using a lot of power.
According to Columbia Climate School, Bitcoin alone currently consumes an estimated 150 terawatt-hours of electricity annually - more than the entire country of Argentina, with a population of 45 million. Producing that energy emits some 65 megatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually, which is comparable to the emissions of Greece Thus, crypto a significant contributor to global air pollution and climate change.
And remember, that's just one cryptocurrency. There's thousands of them, albeit many just run on some kid's basement rig farm for a week until they fizzle out. The whole process is just staggeringly inefficient.
The giant carbon footprint of cryptocurrency has led to public condemnation of the technology. Jamie Zawinski, a Silicon Valley pioneer with a broad following on social media, has been particularly vocal in opposing crypto.
The Crypto Industry is Already Embracing Solar
The change is slow, but it's coming. We know of one Aspen Creek Digital Corp., Bitcoin mining server company, which is running a 10 MW solar facility to power its crypto-mining. We also know of Blockstream co-founder and CEO Adam Back, who has launched a mining facility in Texas that runs off a 3.8 MW solar PV array, assisted by a 12 MW battery system. There is also South Australia-headquartered Lumos Digital Mining, running its own 5 MW solar farm and mining operation, co-developed by Melbourne-based investment agency Climate Capital and South Australia-headquartered renewable energy developer Eyre Power.
The ground has broken already. While it's just a few megawatts in the global bucket now, one can easily see where the idea could take hold very fast, possibly even disrupting a few other industries. Cryptocurrency is used for money, after all, so we're now monetizing solar energy directly here. And then you can use that to mine more Bitcoins, use the Bitcoin to buy more expansion, and so on.
Solar x Blockchain = Unlimited Computing?
Speculation: We're going to put on our geek caps and dive into every fantasy scenario we can propose inspired by science fiction. How close are we to Star Trek's dizzying levels of technology advancement?
Imagine a public works project that installs solar power blocks on every street corner, built to withstand both vandalism and the elements, providing free electricity and blockchain-powered AI services. No wait, a flying squadron of AI-guided drones, trained to return to the solar-powered recharging station when they run low, and dispatched through orders secured with blockchain? Solar-powered AI trains which can coordinate with each other through blockchain communications? A flock of solar-powered, AI-guided robots who weed out crops, eliminating the need for pesticides?
When we look at these possibilities, we sometimes wonder why we haven't implemented these already. They are, of course, a ton of work to implement. Granted, this level of technology has only become possible in the last few decades. Probably the biggest barrier to faster tech adoption is the fear of the economic disruption. Free power is one thing, but using it to make free money is a newer frontier altogether.